“Tears of hope run down my skin
Tears for you that will not dry
They magnify the one within
And me, the outside, slowly die.”
It was two years before a small band of hobbits would set out on an adventure to surpass all others, and the Dark Lord’s might had grown. His anger was fierce; where was the ring he so desired? Where also, was the son of his great enemy, the one who had been captured, escaped and disappeared from even his roving eye?
The world of men was falling, the days of the elves fading, the dwarves hid in their mountains and the hobbits had yet to come forth. The great roads were no longer safe, the dark places teemed with orcs, goblins and other foul creatures and the Dark Lord was picking off his enemies, one by one.
But Araviel, enchanted by the very presence of Elian, and consumed by the thought of having friends, did not sense this growing danger that was plaguing the minds of the great ones. He thought himself but a small pawn on the chessboard that was Middle Earth; not important to either side of the game.
But Araviel was no ordinary elf, and the Dark Lord knew that he wanted this particular pawn, small and insignificant though he seemed, out of the way.
“You cannot enter,” the march warden said in a commanding and somewhat arrogant voice.
“These two may be your kin,” Araviel persisted while gesturing towards Elian and Will, who were still mounted behind him, but Haldir was insistent.
“The lady has commanded that you four specifically may not enter here.” His voice was hard now, no hint of the famed hospitality of the Galadhrim audible in his curt words.
“Lady Galadriel?” Araviel asked with raised brows. “Does she not know me?”
“We all know you well, exile,” Haldir said disdainfully. Araviel stepped back as if he had been struck.
“What has my father told you?” he asked in a low voice, not wanting Elian, Will and Padric, who knew nothing of his past, to hear. Haldir looked back at his three companions and said in a purposefully loud voice.
“Your childish, foolish and bitter actions are well known among all elves. Your father could not be more ashamed of you if you had gone off and joined a band of orcs.”
“When last I looked, you were not he,” Araviel replied stonily. Now that he knew the march warden would not let him pass, he did not care if he was kind. He had very little patience for these ancient elves, and they had equally little for him. His sharp tongue had earned him quite a nefarious reputation among the elders, and they had no hesitation in showing this.
“You would do well to hold your tongue, boy,” another elf, who was flanking Haldir, said while glaring at the young elf before him. Araviel rolled his eyes.
“If you only knew- if you had but a slight inkling of the pain, torment and loneliness I have gone through to redeem my house and my family, you would be wise not to call me a child. It is true that I have known fewer years than you, but those days I have had I have spent in constant battle against evil while you danced and sang, pretending such dangers do not exist!” he seethed. The elf’s pure blue eyes widened and his chin grew taut with anger.
“You deserve to be beaten for your insolence you-“
“I have no pretence to respect you,” Araviel cut in stonily.
“Silence!” the elf bellowed as he caught hold of Araviel’s arm, jerked him forward and struck Araviel roughly on the cheek.
“Your father may not have taught you respect, but someone will!” he growled in a low voice as Araviel stared at him, clutching his cheek and mouthing wordlessly. What right had this ancient one to judge Araviel’s actions when he knew nothing of his life? He had probably never left the safety of the Golden Woods, never lived without the protection of the Lady and companions! What knowledge had he of the outside world that gave him the right to discipline Araviel as he saw fit? The back of his neck prickled as Araviel remembered what was branded there; that alone made him no longer a child. Outraged and humiliated, he wrenched forward and grasped the elf’s smooth, unblemished arms in his own calloused hands. The elf let out a yell and struggled, but the Araviel’s Ranger-trained grip held strong.
“Strike me at your own peril,” he said through clenched teeth, “It will be the last thing you do, I swear it.”
Minutes passed in stifling silence as the two glared at each other; the piercing blue eyes of the older elf meeting the electric green of the younger. Araviel had to exercise extreme patience not to hit his adversary.
“Go on,” he said with a challenging, sarcastic smile, “Hit me, I’m just a boy, right?”
“You have caused enough trouble here for one day, Araviel,” Haldir broke in, voice softer and more compassionate than before, Araviel didn`t take his eyes off the elf he was holding in check, and Haldir continued. “The Lady has given us an order not to let Araviel son of-“
“I am son of no one!” He still wouldn’t look at Haldir.
“As you wish. We are not to let you, the Lady Elian and her brother Will nor Will’s guardian, Padric, pass the borders of this wood. I am not your sire, but I see fit to remind you that those with more years than yourself are to be treated with more respect than you see fit to give them, a lesson I am sure you were taught well in your youth.”
Exercising great restraint, as his eyes were threatening to swim with unwarranted and unwanted tears at his outcasted state, Araviel wrenchingly let go, turned to face Haldir, a sad, unreadable expression on his face, and said. “My father had no time for a second born son. Lessons I learned I taught myself.” With that, he gave a short bow, nodded at the elf that had struck him and lighted once more upon Liera’s back.
“Extend my greetings to the Lady,” he said as he turned Liera around, “Tell her that I am a protector of all that is good and those whom my people are loyal to, including the realm of Lothlorien. Let it be known in the Golden Wood that the `exile’ Araviel will show you the courtesy you will not show him and that he has in tow the son and daughter of a Galadhrim and the favor of Lady Elbereth. And also, as I am not able to do so myself,” he said in a smaller voice, much less haughty and proud than seconds before, “Tell my brother that I still love him. Noro lim!”
“Araviel what was that all about?” Elian asked in a concerned voice as she spurred on her horse, pushing herself next to him.
“Nothing,” Araviel replied in a hard voice while keeping his face determinedly ahead.
“I’m sorry that I cannot mend what troubles you, but perhaps my knowing would numb the pain.”
Shamed by her kind reply to his fierce and rude words, Araviel turned to Elian with an expression of mingled grief and humility.
“Forgive me,” he said in a small voice, “I have shadows in my past that have not been easy to overcome, I should not have lashed out at you.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” she replied, “I would be angry too, if someone had called me an exile.”
“It’s not true-” Araviel began defensively.
“Why did Haldir call you that?” Will asked curiously, “It was a rather cruel thing for him to say.”
“I think Galadriel is not too terribly fond of me,” Araviel replied casually.
“I’d rather not delve into the matter,” he said in a slow voice.
“Araviel, who is your father?” Padric, who was riding beside Will a few feet behind, asked.
“As I already said, I have no father.” His voice was purposefully nonchalant.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Padric scoffed, “You don’t have to like him, but he’s still your father whether you wish it or not.”
“You would be surprised,” Araviel replied coldly.
“Then you are an exile?”
The other three knew better than to pursue the subject further.
“So where are we headed now?” Elian said tentatively after a rather ominous silence, “I have no wish to give up so soon.”
“Isengard, home of Saruman the White,” Araviel said shortly, “I would try to locate Mithrandir, whom I know on a more personal level, but he is off on some mission with Estel at the moment.”
“Saruman the Istari?”
“Aye, second only to Galadriel as far as knowledge of the elves, and perhaps Elrond, whom we’ve already conversed with.”
“How long should it take us to get there?”
“Not more than two or three days,” Araviel replied, “If we push hard.”
“What is this Isengard like?” Will asked.
“I haven’t been there recently, but I have seen it; a circle at the foot of the mountains with a magnificent, jet black tower called Orthanc in the center. It was built by the men of Númenor, but they have long since abandoned it. We can be sure of rest, shelter and the famed hospitality of the head of the White Council there.”
“What’s the White Council?”
“I’ll not delve into that here,” Araviel said, “But you can be assured that, of all people, Saruman will help us. I have met him only twice, but I would trust him with my life.”